Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The Hellboy Universe

One of my friends in University was an art guy who ended up going to Sheraton and bunch of other places. One day we're talking comics and he mentions Hellboy and Mike Mignnola. I knew who Mignola was, had seen his body of work, and had quite liked how different it was, but I'm a superhero guy. I like Marvel, DC and Image superhero comics and always have (although my tastes have gotten a hell of a lot more indie in the years since), so at that point I hadn't really paid too much attention to Hellboy, I had probably only purchased the first two or so trades (which for me was something I would do for most comics). So my friend starts going on about Mignola and how epic his art is, and how cool it is that he is blending international folklore with his art and how it is incredible. I think he gave me Chained Coffin to read (so maybe I had only bought the first trade) and I read it over and it intrigued me, but not to the point where I had to rush out and grab more. Y'see, Hellboy isn't built that way. Hellboy is built in the way where story arcs are accessible and only last about six issues each, or often are just one-shots. You can be a Hellboy tourist, and that was what became of me.

My trips into the HB universe were great fun. Mignola was building something, and while it took time, I had the time available and so did he, it was a wonderful relationship that I imagine Europeans share with the creators of their favorite books. You have to wait, but when the final product comes out it is pretty frickin amazing.

I am not sure when it happened, but years ago the universe started to expand. Mike started adding some choice artists and writers to the group, and added BPRD into the mix. Co-writing with John Arcudi, Mignola took the supporting characters from his Hellboy title and gave them their own book that became the core book for the universe (as Mike still drew most of the Hellboy books at his pace). With Guy Davis on art (check out his Marquis) this book was completely unique, completely beautiful and fully realized from day one. Although there was all sorts of hints being dropped into the main Hellboy title as to what was happening, BPRD was the place where the Apocalypse was happening. Wonderful.

And there have been so many more amazing titles: Baltimore, Lobster Johnson, BPRD historical titles, solo character series for Abe Sapien and others, Witchfinder and probably something that I am not remembering (I know Amazing Screw-On-Head isn't part of it all, but you should read it anyways).

Now obviously I started getting into these titles. A self-contained universe that you can spend about 20 bucks on each month to keep up with (sometimes a little more) is a blessing.

Mike Mignola now has my complete and utter trust when it comes to choosing the artists on his books. He has hired Richard Corben, who ranks among my very favorite artists. He has hired Guy Davis. He has hired Duncan Fegredo, Jason Shawn Alexander, Jason Armstrong, John Severin, Tyler Crook, Francesco Francavilla and an entire fleet of others. I have never looked at the interior of one of these books, whether I have known the artist or not, and not liked it. I have heard people say they have a house style, but these people obviously have no eye for art at all, the artists are all bound by one thing, amazing talent.

So if you haven't gotten into these comics yet, start today. Start with Hellboy: House of the Living Dead with art by Richard Corben. And enjoy the hell out of them.

Oh, and there are novels. Never read one, but they are set in continuity. So for you novel people, JOY!



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